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Digital life: Making our birthday greetings so moving

Facebook's latest feature encourages you to post a video message for your friends' birthday, but will it take off when lots of people can't be bothered to make more than a typed two-word greeting?

By Katie Wright

For a while what I liked to do on friends' birthdays was Google to find out the celebrities and historical figures they shared their big day with and post a selection of the results on their Facebook wall.

"Happy Birthday. Did you know you share your special day with Jerry Seinfeld, Daniel Day-Lewis and William Randolph Hearst?" I asked my friend Annaleise on April 29, for instance.

It always went down a treat, because in a sea of two-word greetings and a smattering of emojis - or, worse, just HB and the recipient's initials - the extra effort was really appreciated. But would I ever go so far as to record a video message and post it, for all and sundry to see, when a pal's birthday rolled round?

Well, that's what Mark Zuckerberg is hoping, with the launch of Facebook's latest feature, Birthday Cam.

If you're an iPhone user, when you go to post a wall message, a blue box will now offer the option to "record a birthday video" (an Android version is in the works).

The tool lets users record 15 second greetings, either selfie-style, or with the front-facing camera, and add colourful celebratory overlays.

In 2014, CEO Zuckerberg predicted that, in five years' time, Facebook will be "mostly video" and, last year, said the site had hit four billion video views a day, so now it looks like he's hoping the social network's one billion daily active users will become creators, too.

But will the feature catch on with camera-shy Brits?

A straw poll among my (mostly 20 and 30-something) friends suggested it won't, with most people saying they don't like the idea of posting a video so publicly.

But you can see how the teens of Generation Selfie won't be nearly as coy.

And, as with so many tech trends, what initially seems unappealing, or unnecessary, can quickly become phenomenally popular (see also: SnapChat, Vine and pretty much every Apple product since the iPhone).

So, next time you get a little blue notification telling you it's someone's birthday, why not fire up your camera and treat your mate to a rendition of Happy Birthday?

It comfortably fits into the 15-second time frame, and a court judgment at the end of last year declared that the famous tune is now out of copyright, so you can warble away without fear of lawsuit.

But that won't protect you from the derision of your friends.

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